When Inja was a teenager, she realized that exercising was a great way to get rid of her anxiety and depression. Therefore, she decided to pursue a career as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. She has lived in countries like Australia, Thailand, New York and Dubai.
With her company Shaped Fit, she hopes to inspire people to work out and push themselves to new limits to strengthen their bodies and minds. She is an accomplished dancer and acrobat as well as an entrepreneur.
She is currently living in Dubai and offers workout and nutrition plans tailored to women who want to feel healthier, more energized, and confident.
1- Can you tell our readers about your background?
My name is Inja, I started my fitness journey growing up with competitive gymnastics and dance. I went to college for exercise science and dance moving from country to country living the gipsy lifestyle teaching and coaching clients about physical and mental health since 2013.
I have lived in Australia, Thailand, NYC and am based in Dubai since 2018. I received numerous health and continued education certificates throughout the years for example in sports nutrition, pre-and postnatal, animal flow, mind and body (pilates and yoga), callisthenics and aquafit to name a few.
Despite training clients, I am an artist working as a performer in the dance industry and partner acrobatics. I am part of a dance company here in Dubai as well as freelance in different venues. (when it’s not corona)
2- What inspired you to start your business?
As a teenager, I started developing anxiety and depression that I have been struggling with ever since. I saw my performance drop drastically when I mentally didn’t feel well. It affected my diet and therefore even more my performance. Everything was connected from my mind to my physical strength. The one thing that has been a constant in my life, the one thing I “depended on” was working out.
Not being able to train, when I was at my weakest point, was the bittersweet reality I faced treading my body the way I did. I stopped having my period, I could barely walk upstairs or hold a water bottle let alone get myself out of bed which made my situation worse.
After being clinically diagnosed and spending 10 weeks in a mental health institution talking to other patients, I knew I wanted to help others see the benefits of working out. It was the one thing that got me through.
It isn’t a one size fits all, it isn’t about a certain body image and looking a certain way. it isn’t about shaming your body for last night’s pizza. But IT IS about celebrating your body, it is showing up for YOURSELF, cherish what your body is capable of doing, it is pushing yourself outside your comfort zone to find new strength and will power, to see that the only limits you set yourself isn’t society or standards, it is yourself. And most importantly, it is about FEELING good and gaining comfort in being uncomfortable.
“I stepped out of my comfort zone as this is where we grow and build strength within the unknown”
3- Where is your business based?
My business is registered in Germany, however, I run it online and therefore it is accessible for everyone around the world and since 3+ years I personally have been based in Dubai where I train clients face to face.
4- How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
I started my business from scratch already 3-4 times. From filming workout videos, creating an ebook, creating a nutritional guidebook to using Instagram and Facebook as a platform to then making a recent shift to follow along with YouTube videos and creating personalized online programs and meal plans that are accessible through an app like feature on any device.
I purchased several different fitness apps, ebooks, training programs throughout the year to get an idea of the market and competitors. To test out different products to see what I like and don’t like.
5- What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Honestly so far the online world hasn’t been such a big success for me (as I do not know how to go about spreading awareness online) and my most effective way is word of mouth.
I do not promote my personal training sessions much, I receive new clients through referrals wherever I am in the world. Their trust and feedback mean the world to me.
6- What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge has been to stay consistent online, to promote myself as a brand offering a service online and to speak publicly about my mental health history. Especially being based in a country where mental health is frowned upon and seeking professional help isn’t easy, it has been rather difficult, yet achievable.
I had to do what I preach to my clients. Step out of my comfort zone as this is where we grow and build strength within the unknown. I had to put myself out there completely “naked” and transparent.
7- What personal sacrifices have you made throughout your career?
Jumping from country to country definitely took a toll on personal relationships and social life.
Giving up safety and security for a life full of freedom and flexibility. Never regretted it and never looked back though.
8- How do you stay focused?
My clients keep me focused. I don’t rely on motivation solemnly as it wears off eventually. I rely on dedication, commitment and hard work. I love what I do and I am fortunate to get to do it on a daily basis and make a living out of it. I wouldn’t change it in the world.
I am a people person and seeing my clients day in and day out, crushing it, aiming to do better for themselves, reaching their goals and setting new ones keeps me going.
9- How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
My programs take a holistic approach and focus a lot on getting your mindset in the right place. If you do anything in life under the wrong motive you won’t achieve your goals. You will struggle along the way trying to find meaning in what you are doing. If your headspace is in alignment with your goals, your body will follow.
My programs are not commercial, nor generic. My consumers receive their own personalized workout and meal plans straight to their inbox with personal support from me when needed. We offer a private Facebook group for support, monthly challenges and tips. All members receive access to a mental health coach in form of videos covering different topics. The workouts and meal plans are adjusted based on their progress and metrics.
“Never give up. Fail a million times, but don’t stop trying until you eventually succeed.”
10- What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
I have not found the right one yet to be completely honest. I struggle with marketing, content strategy and implementation. I get easily overwhelmed and then stick to what I know best. Training my clients/creating programs for them.
I keep getting back to it trying out new things until my anxiety kicks in, I breathe and start again.
11- What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Never give up. Fail a million times, but don’t stop trying until you eventually succeed. Few of us are blessed to make it on the first attempt. Hard work, dedication and commitment are what are going to get us to our goals in the long run.
12- What’s the best work-related advice you’ve ever received?
Be vulnerable and transparent. People want “real”, speak about your background and mental health history and help others by sharing your personal experiences.
13- How do you manage self-doubt?
That’s a tricky one. I think we all have times when we doubt ourselves and rely too much on someone else judging our capabilities. I am very emotionally driven and sometimes lose sight of “reality”.
I take time for myself, I turn my phone off sometimes for hours and do whatever it is I need at that moment, even if it is sleeping or watching Netflix.
When I distance myself from irrational thoughts I usually regain comfort in being uncomfortable and that it is okay to try and fail and do this over and over again until I succeed. This is why I restarted my business multiple times already. I still believe in my product and knowledge. But it’s never linear, it’s always a rollercoaster.
14- What’s your favourite app, blog, and book? Why?
App: Spotify (it opens a door into my soul, no matter what mood I am in there’s always a song to help, workout music is sorted as well as new inspiration for contemporary classes, the right mood for chill evenings at home or during hours of laptop work)
Blog: Sweat (it helps me stay on track with the fitness industry and topics that are trending)
Favourite book: Untamed by Glennon Doyle (everyone should read this book, its therapy, in a nutshell, she’s vulnerable, honest, pure, I learned so much about myself, conditioning from society and saw me on almost every single page in every chapter. She describes life the way I see it too she just put words behind those feelings)
15- What’s your favourite business tool or resource? Why?
Very good question. I have tried out a lot over the years and so far haven’t found the one that suited me and my business the most. I do like Facebook Creative Studio which lets me schedule my posts for the week. It definitely helps and takes the pressure off of the “oh shoot I forgot to post” realization.
16- Could you name a woman who’s inspired you the most?
Jessica Smith. She is one of my clients and has been born with a disability. Her constant positivity, showing up for herself, not letting obstacles hinder her from achieving what she puts her mind into has brought things into a different perspective for me. Working out with her has been a true blessing.
17- How do you balance work and life?
While being blessed to do what I love on a daily basis it is sometimes tricky to draw the line between work and time off.
When I get asked what I do for fun I respond “working out” but isn’t that what you do for a living I hear in return. Yes, true. I train others, but training myself is my time. It is where I disconnect and all that matters is giving the best I can at that moment in time.
18- How do you unplug from work?
– I go horseback riding. It transports me into a different world where I forget everything around me.
– I dance. It has the same therapeutic effect on me, I create, I work through my emotions without having to talk about them)
– I read novels, and self-help books, and listen to podcasts.
– I love nature, I go for long walks along the beach.
– Travelling, exploring new countries, connecting with like-minded people from different nationalities and cultures (when possible)
19- What do you have planned for the next six months?
Apart from creating more online programs (at the moment I offer a weight loss/muscle tone program) such as a dance conditioning program, a 30-day ab challenge, a handstand workshop program.
My biggest dream has always been to run boot camps and fitness retreats around the world as well as represent the brand at fitness summits like the Dubai active and the world fitness day. In order to do these things, I need to create a brand name for myself, and awareness and be able to reach more people for them to join me in these talks/events. I want to work on making these dreams come true.
Curious to learn more about Inja and her services? Check out her website by clicking here.
On social media (Instagram, Facebook and YouTube): @shapedfit